Travel Log 6 “The Mindful Traveler” by Chris Wilner, London, England

As each and every one of us has embarked on our own journeys away from our home countries, we all went with the mentality of coming back a changed person through this rite of passage. Some may have had an idea of what they wanted to accomplish while away and others may be looking for something but they aren’t completely sure what it is. When returning we will talk about the things that we did on our journeys and the memories that have been made, but many will have done it for themselves and had no connection with the community that they became a part of. This is partly what distinguishes that someone from being a mindful traveler. The way I see it as it was written in the book, the mass tourist is someone who goes on vacation or a journey that only contributes to the mass market. People stay in fancy resorts and have no real interaction with the general public of the community that they are joining, even for a short period of time, except for those who work at the resort of the restaurants that they eat at. Compared to the mass tourist, a step above that would be the carefree drifter. This would be someone who comes into town with no set plans of what to do, but they do things that interest them like eating at the best restaurant in town or having a conversation with a local to get a sense of what the place is like. In the same instance this person might keep the ideals that they brought with them and their eyes were never really opened to the things around them.

For someone to be labeled as a mindful traveler Slimbach noted, “is to approach our field settings with a level of sensitivity and curiosity that raises our conscious awareness of how we affect the social and natural environments we enter and act upon.” (Slimbach, 74.) This is the person who immerses themselves in a culture not only by living in the community, but also by actively participating in it. They live with a local family instead of staying in a hotel in order to help the family survive. Maybe instead of eating at the local establishments, they ask to be taught how to make those dishes on their own. This person will leave the community as a part of it instead of an outsider who visited for a period of time. In talking about these different types of travelers, I think I can almost identify with each of them. Reading through the chapter I was thinking about my family and the vacations that I have been on with them outside of my home country. I think I would identify most with the carefree drifter.

When I was on my last vacation with my family, we went on a cruise that stopped at four different places in the Caribbean each time we would embark on the island with no intention of doing as most of the tourists would. Instead of shopping around like the rest of the tourists we would talk to the locals and see what were the things that we should do and see before we left one of those places. We would always ask where was the best place to get authentic food from the region so we would at least know what it was like to eat as a local in the area. At least in this sense we would help the local economy flourish instead of the big businesses that would set up shop and try to reap all of the benefits.

Since embarking on my own journey with no plans as to where I am to go and not knowing anyone until making my own friends once landing here, I am doing my best to be the mindful traveler and become a part of the community that I am living in. As Rolf Potts said, “Go slow. Respect people. Practice humility, and don’t condescend with your good intentions. Make friends. Ask questions. Listen.” (Slimbach, 86.) These are the things that I think are important in order to become a part of the community. When I walk around the streets, I try not to look like the typical tourist that takes pictures of everything because it is new. I think one of the most important pieces of advice that I was given before leaving home was to live in the moment because you will never get another experience like this. I am succeeding in my goal of making friends with locals and becoming a part of their social circles; I have learned so much just from having conversations about the differences between here and home and I feel like by understanding the people who are a part of the community I become a little closer to not being seen as an outsider.

In thinking about how these concepts might relate to the working definition of global community, we must remember the definition that we have set in place. “A global community is a shared living space of interdependent individuals endowed with universal human rights, while choosing to act up on them, embracing differences, and working toward a common goal.” I think the definition that we created as a class directly relate to the definition of a mindful traveler. In thinking about the characteristics that a mindful traveler might have, we can see through our definition that it is a shared living space between us, the mindful traveler, and the community in which we are living. As each of us is empowered with universal human rights, we all choose to act upon them and as we spend more time in the community and learning about the community we soon immerse ourselves in the community. That is why when you talk to people who have already studied abroad, all they wish to do is go back because this soon becomes our home. As a mindful traveler, we come into a community with differences; whether they are the color of our skin, the language that we speak or even the pronunciations of our words, we are seen as an outsider. As we spend more time in the community and learn to emplace the differences, both from our side and theirs, we all work towards a common goal of acceptance. By thinking through the definition we created as a class I feel that we covered all of the necessary points that help to define a global community. At this moment in time I do not think there is a need to make any changes to the definition, but that may change as the time spent here on my journey goes on.

Through the discussion of the mindful traveler, I do believe that mindful traveling is a key characteristic, but it may also be the characteristic that defines international participants of the global community. The reason I say this is because in order to be labeled as a mindful traveler, you must have immersed yourself in a community and become a part of it even if it were for a short period of time. The global community is always changing as more and more people join. There are similarities and differences between those who are a part of the community but we all work towards a common goal. In order to be able to label myself as a mindful travel I believe that “educational travel must dispose us, first of all, to seek out and welcome all reflections of truth, goodness, and beauty in the lives of those we met.” My goal when coming here was to make friends away from home and become a part of their community and I think I have done just that. By learning from the people we meet on our journeys our perception of the rest of the world will have been altered. One of the first questions I asked my friends was what their perception of the United States was and they asked me the same of the United Kingdom. Through shared experiences, we have learned from each other and enriched our own lives and that I believe is what it means to be a mindful traveler.travel

This journey is not only about living in a different land, but its about finding out who you are in relation to the global community and the impact that you might have.  I see this picture and quote as something that I am aspiring to follow while on this journey.  By traveling to a distant land, I am strengthening my mind through experiences and friendships that I most likely wouldn’t have if I didn’t take this risk.  There is no way of telling how something’ll turn out until you do it so that is why I journeyed here without knowing anyone to figure out if I could make it on my own.

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3 thoughts on “Travel Log 6 “The Mindful Traveler” by Chris Wilner, London, England

  1. I like how you mentioned how even on cruises, when you arrive to another location with a different culture than your own and you will still try to aid them by supporting them by going to local restaurants and such. We are aiding them financially and by trying to gain knowledge and understand who they are and vice versa. Just like you have done with cruises, even if one is not going to be a part of a host culture for long, it is still possible to support one another.

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  2. As I was reading your entry the I realized that my family is the typical tourist”you were describing. We interact with local vendors and eat local food, but we never really immerse ourselves into the culture when we go on vacations. Once I get home we plan on going away for the part of the summer and it will definitely be something I bring up with them. Hopefully we become more “mindful travelers” and change our usual “mass tourist” attitudes.

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  3. You’re last paragraph about your quote really stuck out to me. You’re right on the idea that even just deciding to come abroad was a step outside of our comfort zones. That right there is the beginning to the venture beyond our comfort zone and there’s no way to know how something can turn out until you actually experience it, such as what it will be like to be in a distant land without any friends or family and you need to make it by on your own.

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